Crime prevention forces clamp down on eMatsheni

2016-12-30 09:02
Police used whips to disperse vagrants and hawkers picketing outside the beer hall in Retief Street after they were evicted.

Police used whips to disperse vagrants and hawkers picketing outside the beer hall in Retief Street after they were evicted. (Ian Carbutt)

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The notorious eMatsheni Beer Hall was closed down on Thursday and all traders and vagrants occupying the property were kicked out and the gates locked behind them.

Pietermaritzburg police, municipal security personnel and the Spider Crime Prevention Forum jointly evacuated all the illegal occupants squatting inside the historic building, which is owned by Msunduzi Municipality.

The angry occupants resorted to picketing outside the beer hall singing and chanting that their evacuation was unfair.

Many were also seen looting shops along Retief Street while some vagrants were observed brazenly smoking whoonga in front of police.

The police and the CPF used whips to disperse the picketing crowd.

“We do not worry anyone when we are inside the beer hall. Where do they want us to go? We will cause chaos until they allow us back inside,” threatened a vagrant.

Mlungisi Ngubane, who owns a stall in eMatsheni which used to belong to his great grandfather, told The Witness that they had to flee and leave their businesses after their “hostile eviction” by police.

Ngubane said the law of South Africa states that whenever there is a process of eviction, there has to be an eviction letter produced. He argued that they were never served with such a letter.

“We are dealing with thugs; the mayor is leading this gang of thugs disguised as police,” said Ngubane.

An irate trader who has been trading inside the beer hall for 12 years said he was very angry about the shutdown. “Not all of us in there are criminals, I just want to work and take care of my children,” he said.

Another trader said it was very insensitive to shut down the beer hall at this time of year.

“January is around the corner so we need money to spend on getting our children ready for school,” she said.

According to another trader, the gates that the police were using to keep them out were paid for by all the traders in order to protect their stock as the municipality did not “bother” to replace the gate that had been broken for a while.

Some of the business owners around the area said they are happy with the shutdown as they have been complaining about the crime they claim is a result of the “unsavoury characters” who are attracted by the beer hall.

“The whoonga addicts who are always lurking in the area have become a serious problem for our customers,” said a business owner.

According to other business owners the whoonga addicts also break into their shops and steal some of their stock and they believe that shutting down the beer hall will decrease crime in the area and have a positive influence on their businesses.

On the other hand, some business owners expressed annoyance, claiming that their businesses were affected by Thursday’s road closures around the eMatsheni area. They felt they should have been forewarned.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said the people squatting illegally inside the property were “evicted peacefully” and two people were arrested outside the beer hall during the picket.

“The police will continue to monitor the area until we are satisfied that everything has subsided. We will intensify police visibility throughout the city to ensure that the crime does not spill into the city,” said Ngobese.

He added that by the end of the day, the occupants were allowed back onto the property to collect their belongings and barbed wire was then erected around the property to ensure that no one enters it again.

Quoting South cluster commander Major-General Phumelele Makoba, Ngobese said Makoba was aware that the illegal occupants would not give up easily because of the attachment they have with the place but gave an assurance that the police will ensure everyone goes back to where they come from.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said this was just one of the operations the municipality was using to deal with the issue of properties being occupied illegally.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ematsheni beer hall

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